We've all grown so accustomed over the last year or so to hearing tales of gloom from just about every part of the car industry. Against this backdrop, it is nice to be able to report a sales success, particularly when it is the success story of a fairly new company from the emerging Pacific Rim car makers.

Proton was only introduced to this country from it's Malaysian home in 1989 and since that launch sales have really taken off, with huge increases each year culminating in a remarkable 27% increase in 1992. This is a scenario which most car makers would give their eye teeth to be able to lay claim to and represents the fastest growing sales of almost any manufacturer.

Having driven the Proton it is not hard to see why the little car has become so popular over such a short space of time as it represents excellent value for money, the range starting at well under £7,000 and topping out at around £9,500 and confidently backed by a 6 year / 60,000 mile warranty and 2 years / 24,000 miles free servicing, a real bargain.

OK, let's be frank, the Proton may be just a trifle old fashioned, taking Japanese technology of a couple of years ago and reproducing it at remarkably low price with no apparent diminution of quality. But, this is meat and gravy to a huge section of the car buying public who really don't want the very latest technology. Their demands are simpler, reliability, good fuel economy, acceptable performance and excellent value for money. All of this the Proton delivers, features which continue to earn it a substantial market share.

The body design has been gently rounded in this latest revamp, now far more acceptable to the eye than it's angular predecessor this translates into much improved levels of wind noise, to add to already low levels of tyre and engine noise.

The whole package feels solid and well built and a closer inspection of the panel fit and finish confirms this view.

2 body styles are offered, a conventional, 3 box saloon or aeroback - basically a hatchback -, both are roomy for their overall size with good head and legroom, the front seats very supportive and the rear seats well shaped and comfortable.

A large boot area is easily accessed by a big, high opening hatch and 60/40 split rear seats.

Although a trifle plastic, the cabin is well trimmed in a durable cloth and is well put together. The dash is a little angular but carries large clear instruments and the switch gear, while perhaps a little unconventional - the major controls being a type of rotating drum switch - is well to hand.

A lively drive is given by the triple valve, 1.5 litre, engine, willing and quite refined, able to comfortably cruise, with little effort, at motorway speeds, and well mated to a light, 5 speed, manual gearbox.

There aren't normally too many luxuries at these prices but this top of the range model has power steering, electric front windows and mirrors, a manual sunroof, central locking and a good stereo.

The steering is quite precise, if perhaps a bit light and the car handles responsively, a lively and easy drive and a good, comfortable ride.

It's tempting to sum up the Proton as a more than basic car at a less than basic price. If you really don't want or, perhaps, can't afford, the very latest, up to the minute technology, then the Proton certainly offers a very good buy at a very good price.


  • PRICE AS TESTED £9,450
  • TOP SPEED 103 M.P.H.
  • 0-60 13 SECONDS

First Published 1993 - Article © Graham Benge 2007

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